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Latin Notes

There are 4 main methods for pronouncing Latin, all of which are academically respectable (depending upon the context). In the first 3 out of the 4 methods (listed below), the "ti" of "ratio" (because it is between two vowels) is pronounced with a "tsee" sound, as in the English word "ritzy," and is very commonly used method.  Linguist Michael Covington offers an explanation of alternate Latin pronunciation methods in this PDF document.

Four Ways to Pronounce Latin:
1. Reconstructed Ancient Roman Latin (what is taught in most Latin classes from 1900 to today)
2. Northern Continental European Latin: Recommended for Unfamiliar Scientific Terms
3. Southern Continental European Latin (Church Latin): Widely Used Among Catholic Clergy
4. English Method: Ancient Latin Words Used in English Context Today

For naming purposes, our organization uses the "English Method" (the 4th method listed above) for pronouncing ratio Christi, which would be the following:

RA-she-oh (all CAPs means accented syllable is RA)
--the "R" is pronounced like the "r" in the English word "rationality"
--the "A" is pronounced like the "a" in the English words "cat" and "rationality"
--the "she" is pronounced like the English word "she"
--the "oh" is pronounced like the English word "oh"

In fact, the English word "rationality" is derived from the ancient Latin word "ratio." This contemporary English word "rationality" provides guidance for pronouncing "ratio."

The English Method for pronouncing Christi is how we pronounce the Texas city "Corpus Christi" (which is also how Biola University and the Evangelical Philosophical Society pronounce their philosophy journal Philosophia Christi). 

I have derived my Latin pronunciation guidance above from "Latin Pronunciation Demystified" (http://www.ai.uga.edu/mc/latinpro.pdf). This is an authoritative guide to Latin pronunciation by Michael A. Covington, a linguist (and outspoken evangelical Christian) at the University of Georgia. Covington also works in artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computational psycholinguistics, and related fields. He has weighed in on various science and theology issues on his personal website, which is linked from his University of Georgia website above. Covington’s pronunciation guide is recommended by other prominent webpages about Latin pronunciation such as http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/latinlanguage/qt/latinpronounce.htm and http://www.luc.edu/faculty/jlong1/L101pron.htm

Michael Covington has written several books on amateur astronomy, including "Celestial Objects for Modern Telescopes," which specifies constellation pronunciations, most of them based on the English Method of Latin pronunciation, as explained by his Latin Pronunciation Demystified. Sky and Telescope, the leading amateur astronomy magazine, cites Covington as an authority for Latin pronunciation: 

Covington’s Latin Pronunciation Demystified tells you how to pronounce Latin words and phrases, given only the spelling and the vowel lengths, which you can look up in any Latin dictionary. He writes: "I am addressing primarily people who are not schooled in Latin but need to pronounce Latin words because of their interest in science, history, or music. … The pronunciation of Latin becomes much less puzzling once you realize that there are at least four rival ways of doing it. The pronunciations you hear in biology or astronomy class don’t match the ones you learned from your Latin teacher, and guess what? That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. They just reflect different periods in history."

Covington provides a table that illustrates the four main methods of Latin pronunciation (see above on this page).

Four Ways to Pronounce Latin:
1. Reconstructed Ancient Roman Latin (what is taught in most Latin classes from 1900 to today)
2. Northern Continental European Latin: Recommended for Unfamiliar Scientific Terms
3. Southern Continental European Latin (Church Latin): Widely Used Among Catholic Clergy
4. English Method: Ancient Latin Words Used in English Context Today

According to all the Latin dictionaries that I consulted (4 in total), the "a" in ratio has a short (not long) "a" vowel sound, which is important for properly using Covington’s Latin Pronunciation Demystified 
--the "A" in ratio is pronounced like the "a" in the English words "cat" and "rationality"
--the "A" in ratio is not to be pronounced like the long "a" in the English word "father"

Mike Keas

Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science

The College at Southwestern (http://college.swbts.edu)

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